“What people say they find attractive does not always correspond with their actual sexual behaviour.”
– Sign at ‘Sexual nature’ exhibition, Natural History Museum, 2011
When I was a young lad, no sorrows to drown,
At weekends we’d paint the town red;
We’d head to the Wheatsheaf in old Swindon town,
And drown our tomorrows instead.
One fateful night three companions walked in,
Corina, who kept glancing at me;
Nancy, not quite as attractive as sin,
And Rob, a tall bloke with bad acne.
Oh fair Corina, Corina my love,
Why couldn’t you be my first?
With your laughing green eyes and your stonewashed Levi’s,
You would have rocked my universe,
Oh, you would have rocked my universe.
We talked, laughed and danced, and we shared a cigar
I downed eight pints of ale, then upped nine;
And after three more they called time at the bar
And Corina said, “Let’s go to mine.”
Once we’d arrived she took Rob to her bed
To embark on a night of romance.
Then Nancy she yawned, cracked her fingers, and said,
“Well, come on then, take off your pants.”
Oh fair Corina, Corina my dear,
Why couldn’t you be my first time?
With your soft golden hair and your pert derriere,
We could have been partners in crime,
Oh, we could have been partners in crime.
Now I’d spent five years with my flag at full mast
In readiness just for this day;
Now it was called for, the stiffness had passed
But she put it inside anyway.
It wasn’t the ale, nor the Marlboro Lights,
Nor my first sight of a lady’s doodah;
Twas the thought of the angel I’d prayed for all night
Being jackhammered by Freddy Krueger.
Unfair Corina, Corina, you cow,
Why couldn’t you be my first chick?
You left me with Nancy, who I didn’t fancy,
And slept with that pizza-faced prick,
Oh, you slept with that pizza-faced prick.
♥ There is a conflict at the heart of the human mating system.
The optimal mating strategy for males (and thus their more “natural” behaviour) is to take lots of short-term sexual partners. The optimal mating strategy for females is to have one (or few) long-term sexual partner. Clearly, when men and women hook up, something’s got to give. A compromise is called for; and it turns out that, surprise, surprise, it’s the least attractive people who do most of the compromising.
Individuals of higher mate value – more attractive people – are more likely to achieve an arrangement closer to their preferred strategy. So desirable men (looks, money, high status) are more likely to play the field; desirable women, meanwhile, are more likely to insist on commitment (and on a longer courtship period before sex, of which more anon).
Conversely, men of low mate value will more willingly accept a long-term relationship, while women of low mate value will more often accede to requests for casual sex.
As Herold and Millhausen put it in their 1999 study, most women adopt a “restricted sociosexual strategy” – ie, they prefer long-term relationships – but there are some who prefer an unrestricted strategy.